Controlling risks - the hierarchy of control
Having identified a hazard and assessed its risk, you then need to consider what action/s you can take to control the risk. There are a number of control strategies available, and this is referred to as the "Hierarchy of Controls".
The Hierarchy of Controls is the golden rule for reliably and cost effectively controlling hazards. Click each of the elements in the hierarchy pictured below to find out more.
Note that as you go down the list of options, the controls become less reliable, more costly and require more work to ensure they are maintained. In most situations, the actual method for controlling the risk is a combination of options in the hierarchy.
In high-risk situations, you might also need to consider applying short-term control measures while the most appropriate long-term controls are identified, designed and implemented. Examples of short-term controls could be:
- In a trades workshop where there is a high level of risk, it may be that restricted personnel are allowed access to the workshop until it can be made completely safe. Training is postponed until it is a safe environment for learners.
- While waiting for special machine guards to arrive for some high speed cutting equipment, staff are issued with personal protection equipment to minimise the risk of injury.
To apply the hierarchy of control, always start at the top - the best solution always is to try and eliminate the hazard. However, cost is a factor that must be considered.
Generally, the higher up controls in the hierarchy such as elimination and substitution are most cost effective in the long term as they are more reliable and require less maintenance to ensure effectiveness. PPE is a good example of a control measure at the bottom of the hierachy - it's cheap to purchase a few pairs of goggles, gloves and overalls - but they need cleaning and replacing regularly. It would be more cost effective to implement other more long-term measures.
Having decided on the control measure to be taken, you can complete your Risk Control Action Plan.
This is when it may become obvious that addressing some of these safety issues may not be part of your responsibility as a trainer/assessor. It may be necessary during the risk control process to seek assistance from an OHS expert or advisor, such as:
- in-house or external OHS personnel
- health professionals
- specialist OHS experts for this specific industry area.
The Safety Institute of Australia is a professional body for safety practitioners. Its website at http://www.sia.org.au might be a good source of information if you need to call on some expertise.
Remember, as the trainer/assessor in a learning environment outside of your own workplace, you may not have responsibility for risk control. Your role will be to advise the employer of the hazard and assist where appropriate in managing the risk.